Name: Cole Figueroa
DOB: June 30, 1987
A sixth-round pick this past year, the Padres were able to consummate a deal in late July and shipped him off to Eugene to begin his professional career.
After leading the Florida Gators in home runs, RBI, multi-hit games, total bases and sacrifice flies during his sophomore season, Figueroa competed in 32 games for the Emeralds.
A left-handed hitter, Figueroa hit.289 with 11 extra base hits, including five homers. He scored 23 runs and drove in 16. Figueroa also drew 24 walks compared to 16 strikeouts for a .410 on-base percentage and swiped seven bags in nine attempts.
"Surprising, surprisingly good," Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "Very athletic, doesn't look athletic. Strong arm, another one trying to be a student of the game. Started asking questions, started understanding and reasoning."
He hit .344 off right-handed pitching but struggled with a .083 average off southpaw pitchers. He also hit .243 with runners in scoring position but .315 with the bases empty. There were some who believed he wanted to make things happen and was swinging at pitches he normally lays off.
With repeatable swing mechanics and a short stroke to the ball, Figueroa is able to generate power – although he showed more pop than the Padres believed he had in his first season. He is at his best when he is using the gaps to deliver doubles while popping off the occasional long ball.
"He made an adjustment: he had a high-leg kick, took that away from him, try to change that, to stay more balanced early in the pre-set," Patrick said. "Hitting the ball a lot better and just needs time, more time."
Raising his game to the level of competition, Figueroa plays the game hard and is praised for his work on and off the field – dedicating himself to playing the right way.
A terrific batting eye and quick bat make for a solid combination of skills at the dish.
He is an ideal two-hole hitter because of his ability to make contact. Figueroa can execute a hit-and-run with ease and is a sparkplug for the rest of the lineup. He can also play small ball, moving runners over and sacrificing himself for the team, while adding significant pop from a powerful frame.
His strike zone awareness is already among the best in the system. He looks for his pitch to hit and focuses on staying away from pitches thrown outside of the zone.
Figueroa is comfortable taking the ball anywhere it is pitched – hitting it the other way on a ball outside and pulling those on the inner half.
"Good attitude, hustles, plays hard, and can play three positions: I'm surprised how well he played at short," Peyton added. "And what I'd call good instincts. I can't say above average because I haven't seen enough baseball players from this era. Good instincts: knows when to charge the ball, when it gets inside of it, still make a play, off-balance, up the middle, strong enough arm to make the play at that level, but I don't know when you move up how much more he needs."
A polished defender that reacts well to the ball off the bat, the Florida native is very instinctual. He positions himself well before the play and gets good reads. Lateral movement will need to improve to make the tougher plays in the hole and up the middle.
Figueroa also has a nice arm that can make all the necessary throws from shortstop.
"Figgy from University of Florida, he can really play short, got good instincts for a little guy, plenty of arm," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "I heard some reports he couldn't throw: he's got a laser from the hole, and he's learning to play second base."
Not a burner, Figueroa uses his smarts to take extra bases. Lacking first-step quickness, it is essential for him to get a good read off the pitcher – something he has an uncanny ability to do.
A son of a major leaguer – Bien Figueroa played one season with the St. Louis Cardinals – Cole Figueroa has innate knowledge of the game and incredible instincts. His makeup is off the charts, and he has leadership qualities that extend to his teammates.
"Figueroa is more polished at the shortstop position, knows how to react, controls the zone very well at the plate and has a quick arm and bat," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He doesn't have the speed of the others but he can play."
Conclusion: Figueroa is still coming into his own as a player. He has a solid compliment of tools to be successful but is still finding out what kind of player he will become. He wants to get stronger and that could lead to him believing he is more of a power hitter. His consistent approach at the plate should not, however, be sacrificed to make that happen.
He can man both middle infield spots, giving him an edge as he works his way up the ladder. Given his work ethic and bloodlines, Figueroa simply has to stay the course and continue learning the nuances of the professional game. He has all the tools to succeed but must remain within himself to bring out all that talent.
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